When I moved to my second job as a family social worker in the new city of Milton Keynes, it seems now a step that reflected this belief in new growing organisms. The city was only just coming to be – the shopping centre was a building site when we arrived and was opened a few months later. It created the first real city centre and housing estates were growing fast. The Development Corporation who were building the city employed ‘arrivals workers’ – all was now fresh and full of promise.
I cannot now fully recall how it was that I became involved in setting up a Bereavement Service, but it did seem to strike a chord in all this optimistic youthfulness. There were some obvious barely spoken truths about this new city – it was filled with people who had left some kind of life behind. Loss was the most widely shared experience in the city.
The importance of loss grew on me gradually. I was not really aware of it in my own life in some of the places that were most obvious, though the desolation of leaving Sheffield at 13 years old and moving home was something I recalled vividly enough. My friend’s death at university in a way came too early in my emotional life to seem like a loss – a shock and a hurt but not fully experienced as a loss. My supervisor at my new job seemed more struck by my leaving my home and life in Sheffield to take the job in Milton Keynes than I was. It was one of a number of examples of how we seem to know what we don’t know – I clearly had enough experience of loss for the issue to seem intellectually significant, but it was too unexamined and unconscious for me to realise the personal emotional significance of the engagement with this issue. That insight came later as a series of discoveries.